My So-Called Life: 1.01 “Pilot”

Season 1 Episode 1
Airdate: August 25, 1994

My So-Called Life 101

I’ve never watched My So-Called Life. I find that people who are five years or more older than me tend to be nostalgic about this show, but I was in elementary school when it aired and didn’t even know it existed until about four years ago. People who were in high school and college during the 90s can look back on that decade and remember this show and all the great music. When I think back to the 90s, I mostly remember Nickelodeon. I sometimes feel a little jealous toward Generation X because of that. They got to come of age with Nirvana and Alice in Chains and Bikini Kill. I went to high school and college in the 00s and that decade sucked ass…not just because of the music, the whole decade just sucked a whole lot of ass.

I’ve decided to start reviewing My So-Called Life. I’ve never seen this show before, so I’ll be writing the review for each episode after having watched it for the very first time. We’ll start, of course, with the pilot.

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The first scene is of two girls giggling by a British phone booth. They are saying weird things to passersby and laughing. They think they are being funny, but everyone else just sees two dumb kids, because teenage girls don’t know how to be funny, at least intentionally.

Hey, that’s Claire Danes! Wow, she looks so young. Like, I remember when she was in that Romeo & Juliet adaption with Leonardo DiCaprio, but that had to be after this show. The next thing I saw her in was Terminator 3, where she was the only good thing in that piece of shit. Then, just this year, I saw her on HBO playing a retard. She won an Emmy for that, because Hollywood loves to give awards to actors who play retarded.

Seriously, Terminator 3 was a stupid movie. Now, Terminator 2 is my favorite action movie of all the universe and beyond, so I had absolutely no high hopes whatsoever for the third movie because it came out more than ten years later and was made by a totally different group of people. Since I don’t want to go off on too long of a rant, I’ll just give you one reason I hated it. Reason #43678 Terminator 3 was dumb: By the time of T3, John Connor was supposed to have grown into this highly trained mercenary, but he begins the movie by getting trapped in a dog cage and spends the rest of movie getting rescued again and again by other people who do all the work. I get that he was slightly-zonked out on horse pills the whole time, but that just makes him look like less of the John Connor he was supposed to be. It was totally awesome to see John Connor carried on the shoulders of a man who is three times his size. Not emasculating at all. That’s the kind of person I could see leading humanity in our war for survival.

My So-Called Life 101

The next scene is of the Claire Danes girl, along who I think is a different girl, walking down their high school hallway. There’s that long-walk-down-a-crowded-hallway scene a lot of teen shows do to show us what a crazy place high school is. Some boys gaze at her, and Claire Danes tells us that it is weird dealing with boys, “How you have to pretend you don’t notice them…noticing you” and getting boners.

My So-Called Life 101

Claire Danes dyes her hair red in the school bathroom sink. This shocks her mother, even though it’s still a color people have naturally. It’s not like she dyed it blue or purple or something. She went one step more than just getting highlights.

With her red hair and incredibly pale skin, she is starting to look like a Ginger. Since I don’t know her name yet, I am going to call her Wannabe Ginger. I will call her this even after I learn her name, which–judging by how long it takes me to learn the names of characters when I review Degrassi–won’t happen until episode 50.

Wannabe Ginger eats dinner with her family. She uses a voice over to tell us her thoughts on chewing, saying it’s weird that we do it public. She is working on her stand up comedy act. Her little sister says her hair is red. “It’s not red,” Ginger replies, “it’s Crimson Glow.” If I knew this girl in real life, I think she would annoy me.

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That night, Wannabe Ginger exits the bathroom when her dad sees her in a towel and gets flustered. Her dad tries to ask her about school, and Ginger says she has gotten into Anne Frank. She’s into Anne Frank? Maybe Anne Frank was the name of a riot grrl band in 1994.

Wannabe Ginger’s father is on edge because she is growing breasts and he is getting a little turned on. He should be used to that by now. Girls usually sprout those things in middle school, and she is a sophomore in high school. In their bedroom, the father tells the mother to tell their daughter to cover her breasts better. He suggests they buy bigger towels. But, like, her towel was covering her boobs, entirely covering them. I don’t think they even make towels larger than the one she had on. Is this a real thing fathers go through? I am not about to phone my dad to ask. When I have a son, am I going to be glancing at his bulge all the time after his testicles descend?

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The next day, Ginger eyes a boy in the hallway, Jordan Cattalono. “He’s always closing his eyes,” she tells us, “like it hurts to look at things.” Yeah…if she were a sophomore today, she’d be way into Twilight.

My So-Called Life 101 My So-Called Life 101

Wannabe Ginger is sitting in yearbook class with her friend who looks like Marty McFly’s girlfriend, Jennifer Parker–the Back to the Future II version, not the version from the first movie. There is also this boy who keeps photographing her, which makes Ginger tuck her head under her sweater. She quits yearbook and leaves the room. Nobody knows why. It’s probably because there is a creepy boy taking pictures of her. Someone should tell him to stop. This was before digital cameras too, so he is wasting film. And if this high school is as well funded as mine was, he just used up their entire supply of film for the year.

Ginger gets home to unexpectedly find Jennifer Parker in her bedroom. Jennifer left her copy of Anne Frank here. Their video for “Hidden in Holland” had just started playing on 120 Minutes and Ginger wanted to borrow the CD and copy it on her tape player. You know, everyone always says their best album was My Diary, but I always preferred their self titled debut, because it had “Shh…Germans at the Door” and that song always makes me tear up; it’s such an amazing ballad. I saw them in Green Bay in 2004 when they went on their reunion tour. Their new stuff wasn’t that great, but I did enjoy their cover of “The Old Apartment” by the Barenaked Ladies.

My So-Called Life 101

Ginger and her Hippie Friend talk about Jordan in the bathroom. This other kid (who I am 55% certain is a boy) is in the girl’s bathroom with them. Wannabe Ginger leaves but has to walk into a stall to get to the door. At least that’s what it looks like she does. That’s an inappropriate place to put a toilet.

Ginger has to meet with a teacher at lunch time. The teacher eats her lunch in the classroom. Ginger thinks her teacher’s lunch is depressing. She just thinks that because the teacher is eating a sandwich she made at home and not McDonalds. Teenagers eat fast food way too often. And they can usually get away with it because they have that amazing teenage metabolism. It’s easy for a lot of kids to eat and eat and not get fat when their bodies use all that food to help them grow. And what is with this girl and constantly being critical of how people eat? Does she have an eating disorder?

Wannabe Ginger sees her father in the kitchen. She tells us that he wanted to be a chef, but got a job at the print shop her mother’s family runs. Also, her mom runs the shop now, which makes her the boss of her husband. Shouldn’t he have gotten some kind of promotion after working there for twenty years? Also, because he is the owner’s son-in-law? What happened to good old-fashioned American nepotism? His in-laws must not like him.

Ginger tries to reach out to her dad by talking about how they don’t serve meat at school. Her dad says the lack of meat is destroying America. Lack of meat? What America do you live in? Where is there a lack of meat consumption in this country? Maybe it’s just because I live in the Midwest, but everyone I know eats plenty of meat for all four meals of the day. I think mad cow crisis happened might have occurred sometime around this time. Maybe that led to a drastic shortage of beef worldwide.

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Ginger goes to a party where teens are drinking and hopping around to a loud rock band. I’m sure the neighbor’s appreciate that. When you watch this, take a moment to remember that these people are all parents now and almost 40. Ginger only came to the party because Jordan was going to be there and she finds him asleep in front of the TV. This must be his house but his little brother is hosting the party and didn’t invite him. She tries to talk to him but he doesn’t say much other than he doesn’t know what day it is.

Ginger comes home. Her mom is mad that she got mud on her loose fitting, long sleeved, earth tone print dress that was so fashionable in the early 90s and poor people buy at Goodwill today. Her parents argue and the father says it would be best if they all go to bed. He turns off one light in the living room and leaves. But there are, like, five other lights left on in that room. This family needs to get it together. They are probably so unhappy because their electric bills are so high.

My So-Called Life 101

The next day at school, Wannabe Ginger is in the bathroom. Girl spends a lot of time in the bathroom. Jennifer Parker comes in and is upset that she and Ginger are no longer friends. Ginger doesn’t know why they are not friends, she would just rather spend time with Hippie Girl and the kid who may be of either gender. His or her name is Ricky, or it could be Ricki. I don’t know.

What is Jennifer even doing here? She and Marty probably took the DeLorean to 1995 to go to a Pearl Jam concert. The music from that year is so much better than in 1985 and they wanted to experience it. Then they went to 2005, looked around, and started crying.

You know what? 2015 is coming up. Universal needs to get started on Back to the Future IV to capitalize on it. I am not sure how to do that given Michael J. Fox’s disease. He was on Rescue Me a while back, and every time I tuned in and saw him, he was sitting on a couch. They can work that into the script somehow. Like, since they stopped making DeLoreans in 1982, and replacement parts must be nearly impossible to acquire, maybe Marty and Doc had to take out the original, worn out seats and put in a nice comfy couch. Marty can spend the whole movie in the drivers seat. He and Jennifer’s kids will be in the movie but are not old enough to drive, so Marty can just wait in the car while his kids run around through different periods of time.

Ginger asks her parents to let her spend the night at Hippie Girl’s house (this is cover story, they are really going to a rave). Her mom does not like Hippie Girl, complaining that the girl ate a whole block of her cheese the last time she was here. Damn, girl can eat a lot of cheese. That’s kind of a turn on.

Ginger’s mom also does not like her other new friend. “I find Ricky [or Ricki] a little confusing,” says her mother. I do too! Ginger refers to Ricky as him, so that matter is settled. Ginger tells her parents he is bisexual, which means he is going to be gay by the time he gets to college.

My So-Called Life 101

Ginger gets permission to leave and changes into a tight little tank top and jeans. The boy who was taking pictures of her earlier follows her on his bike and won’t stop bugging her. He is mad that she won’t respond to his creepy advances so he begins insulting her. I do not like this kid.

If this was a Lifetime movie, that boy would end up date raping her at a party. If this show was written by a man, that boy would be the lovable loser nice guy who never gets the girl because girls are stupid and always going for the bad boys who they think are “so sensitive.” But you can tell this show was created by a woman because he is instead an annoying stalker, and the most likeable male character on this show is a homosexual.

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Ginger, Hippie Girl and Gay Ricky are outside the rave club. Ginger is wearing flannel over her club outfit. She is so 90s. It really makes the show stand out as part of the early 90s. I mean, I wear flannel a lot myself, but I am from the Upper Peninsula, and still, I’m never like, “Oh, hey, gonna go party at the club. Better get my flannel.”

The kids meet two older guys. Hippie Girl starts to make out with one, who then attempts to rape her. I don’t think he needed to try to rape her, she probably would have just given it to him. She seems kind of easy, is from a broken home, and drunk. She would have given him a blowjob for a sip of sweet, sweet whiskey.

My So-Called Life 101

A cop saves the day. He doesn’t arrest the attacker, but he does drive the three kids home. There is some bonding between the two girls, but they don’t kiss, so it isn’t important. The cop drops Ginger off last. She wants to talk about The Diary of Anne Frank, but the policeman says he never read it. Of course he didn’t. He’s a cop. He’s never read a book.

That creepy blonde boy is sitting in a tree waiting for Ginger to come home. He really wants to know what happened. Ginger just says two guys were hitting on them. “What,” blonde boy asks, “like, sexual harassment?” No, that’s what you do. This was attempted rape. Like what you will do in college.

My So-Called Life 101

Ginger seeks comfort in her mother’s arms. This is important because they have been arguing but are now bonding. But she’s a teenager, so she’ll be calling her mom a bitch tomorrow at breakfast.

Grade: A-

This was better than I expected. I’ll write more of my thoughts on this show after I have watched more than one episode. I will say this is one of the better pilots to a show I have seen. A lot of pilots get bogged down having to establish the show’s premise and introduce all the characters that the story is often diminished, but this episode managed to introduce us to the series and tell an interesting tale. I’ll drink to that.